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Indiana littered with 2,100 leaking underground tanks

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The state environmental agency is using $4 million in federal money to clean up 28 sites with leaking underground storage tanks, although that will barely make a dent in Indiana's problem.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is tracking about 2,100 sites with leaking tanks, many of which contain gasoline and diesel fuel that can damage soil and contaminate groundwater. Property owners are responsible for most of those cleanups, which the state agency estimates that would cost $400 million to complete.

Many of the 28 sites being cleaned up using federal stimulus money have been abandoned.

"Typically, those are sites where the responsible party is no longer around or is bankrupt," said Bruce Palin, IDEM's assistant commissioner for the office of land quality, told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne for a story Monday.

In one such case, the agency is planning a $130,000 cleanup for the former Jerry's Marathon in the Allen County town of Monroeville. The building is dilapidated and the lot is littered with debris that the property owner hasn't addressed despite warnings going back to 2006.

An inspector with IDEM visited the site Sept. 12 and found not much had changed since the previous inspection months earlier — cans and boxes in the building, piles of wood and a rusting car in the gravel.

"Facility abandoned — tanks still exist," the inspection report said.

Laws passed in the 1980s required that property owners notify the federal government if they had underground tanks. If they did, the tank also had to meet, by 1998, new regulations designed to help prevent leaks.

While this caused many property owners to replace their tanks with improved models, some also simply walked away, abandoning their property. New property owners would take over and often not know it had a tank until a leak occurred.

"A lot of times, you end up dealing with people who just didn't know and are trying to correct a problem they never knew existed," said Cheryl Ryan, the director of business development at SES Environmental, a company with a Fort Wayne office that repairs and addresses damage done by underground storage tanks.

State environmental officials have spent $2.6 million of the federal grant the agency received in 2009.

The agency says some 200 to 300 cleanups area completed each year around Indiana, while it receives 150 to 170 new confirmed reports of leaking tanks during the same time.

The state's current list of about 2,150 leaking tanks simply covers those that IDEM know about, with an unknown number of others that have yet to be detected.

"It's a continual moving target," agency spokesman Barry Sneed said. "The number is always changing."

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  • HOMEOWNERS BEWARE
    This LAW is NOT JUST for businesses ohh no it isnt now lets look at all the home opwners that have buried fuel oil tanks WAY past A 25 yr life ? all homeowners need to look at their own problems with their storage tankls !! Imagine how many are in fact rotted leaking an out dated MANY MANY MANY more than a lousy 2500 although most are 500 to 1000 gallon holding and that MY dear freinds can Contaminate a LOT OF LAND !and cost you a fortune !
  • Just a thought...
    $4 million to clean up 28 sites extrapolates to $300 million to clean up 2100 sites, which is roughly equal to .02% of $1.437 trillion - the combined 2010 revenue of ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
  • Clean up fund
    Apparently this is an age old problem which seems pretty easy to correct. Place a fee per gallon on all gasoling sales (fee to be paid by either the station owner, or oil distributor, or both, but not customers). Then when the property is vacated, funds will be available to fix the ongoing problems. It is hard to believe that our politicians have not acted to protect the public in this regard for so many years; that's what happens when their campaigns are paid for by the corporations they should be protecting us from.
  • It isn't legal.
    It isn't legal to sell a property with a known defect without full disclosure, but it's a civil matter for the new owner to collect damages from the old owner- who undoubtedly skipped the state years ago.
  • Underground tanks
    Just because there is a law against something doesn't mean the regulator (government) will actually enforce the law. That's why IDEM is such a joke and EPA has to threaten to take over things IDEM is supposed to take care of according to not just state but federal laws. Anti-environmentalists cry they are over-regulated, but the truth is there's little real enforcement going on and the damage grows to be found by future generations who will curse ours for being too shortsighted and weak to stop the crimes and criminals when it isn't too late.
  • Warning: Underground Tank
    How can it be legal to sell property and not disclose that there is an out dated underground tank? If the property owner walked away from it, how is he making a living now? Put a lien against his income and any other property he has.

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